On Feb. 13, Shelby Pierson, an analyst for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, testified in a classified hearing to the House Intelligence Committee that Russia preferred the current president to win in the 2020 election.
A number of Republicans objected, and Ms. Pierson’s testimony was relayed to Mr. Trump. The next day, on Feb. 14, he interrupted a routine briefing on election security, according to one of the meeting’s participants. He asked the director of national intelligence at the time, retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire: “Hey, Joe, I understand that you briefed Adam Schiff and that you told him that Russia prefers me. Why did you tell that to Schiff?”
Although Mr. Maguire tried to explain that it was another official, Mr. Trump continued to question him and the meeting broke up. On Feb. 19, Mr. Maguire was informed that his likely replacement should be let into his office’s headquarters the following morning.
Mr. Trump named his replacement as Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a former United Nations ambassador’s spokesman, media consultant and Fox News commentator.
Anger and anxiety from Day 1
Mr. Trump’s speech on the first day of his presidency, in front of the C.I.A.’s Memorial Wall, a tribute to agency officers killed in service, drew intense anger for some in the agency. At the event, Mr. Trump repeated false claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, attacked the news media and asked why the lobby of C.I.A. headquarters had so many columns.
One agency veteran called the speech “a near desecration of the wall.”
The president’s penchant for bargaining and gossiping on his private cellphone, and for inviting billionaires into his circle, created anxiety in the intelligence agencies. Intelligence officials of at least one country, a NATO ally, were discouraged by their president from interacting with American counterparts for fear that Mr. Trump would blurt out information to Russians, one former senior intelligence official said.
Mr. Trump also stocked the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with wealthy businesspeople who, when briefed, “would sometimes make you uncomfortable,” because at times “their questions were related to their business dealings,” one intelligence official said.